The LEICA Diaries - Part Eight

The Leica experiment goes on and I'm continuing to enjoy working with the M2, almost exclusively, it has to be said, with the 50mm Summicron. That's partly because the 35mm Summaron and 90mm Elmar need a good service as they're on the soft side and lacking in contrast, particularly the Elmar. I'm sure both would be capable of much more than I'm getting from them at the moment after years of haze and goodness knows what was removed from their elements.

So the Summicron it is. It's been a fixture on the M2 for more than a fortnight now and the more I use it the more I come to appreciate its qualities. The M2 really is made for the standard lens. I can see the frame lines easily enough and the rigid Summicron is just the right size to balance well on the camera without being so small that it becomes fiddly. Sometimes I struggle to find my way around the diminutive Summaron.

As things have panned out recently, I've been mostly using the M2 as a walkabout camera rather than heading off into the countryside or tackling wee projects as I tend to do with the Olympus OM gear. Perhaps if I were to try using it more as my mainstream outfit then I'd be less satisfied but for the use it's getting now, it's just perfect.

I wondered if the minimum focus of the Summicron on the M2, a not-too-close 1 metre, would prove a handicap especially since my normal lens on the OM2 is a 50mm Zuiko macro that focuses to just a few inches. But I can only think of one shot where I was annoyed that I couldn't get close enough and that's out of four rolls so it's not a huge problem.

There's a close range version of the lens known as the Dual Range Summicron (it figures in many of Phil Roger's dreams) that would get me down to 47.8cm but there's no advantage other than that as the optics between the two are identical.

There's also an attachment (can't remember the name of it right now) that would enable the rigid Summicron to focus closer. It seems like a bit too much bother to me just for the very occasional shot. There's also the fact that, in my opinion, the rigid Summicron is the best-looking standard lens ever made by Leica and it would be a shame to spoil it by attaching some odd device to it.

Maybe I should talk little about the three pics on this page now. I'll start with the first one taken at Monikie Country Park. I've photographed this jetty a few times before but this is the first Leica shot. The tendency with a new camera or format, as everyone probably knows, is to rephotograph those subjects that have proved successful in the past. Why fight it, I thought.

I was looking at the jetty posts and trying to make up my mind whether to have them ending short of the trees on the horizon or breaking through them into the sky. Then I decided that it would look better if they appeared to be supporting the far away bank so that was the aim. I think it gives a nice balance to the composition and ties the whole picture together. If I'd had my wits about me I'd have taken one each of the alternative framings as well and then I could have shown you all three and asked you to vote for the one you prefer! Maybe next time…

The second photo isn't the latest ebola strain or the next winter flu bug (the Summicron doesn't focus that close, remember) but is a shot of a stick that was lying in a still pool of foam and micro flotsam at Monifieth beach. The saturated stick was only about a foot long but the Summicron just got in close enough. It's a bit of a weird subject and I found it fascinating although I'm not sure about its merits as a photograph.

Finally, a pic of an atmospheric close or alley in the Fife town of Cupar. It was the only pic I took that day and I only clicked the shutter so I had something to show for it. The light is nice, though, and the textures on the wall show up well. Here's something you can vote on if you like. Is the image above better than the crop below?

Personally, I think I prefer the square crop but cropping a Leica negative is so un-HCB that I don't know if I should admit to it.


  1. I actually prefer the uncropped version of the close over the square crop. For me, it gives a better sense of the light that was there.

  2. The square would be better without the graffiti, but in this case I prefer the non-cropped version. Without the graffiti, I think the square format would accentuate the abstractness (can you say that? Haven't had much sleep the last few days; maybe it shows...)

    But wanted to say congrats on the first picture :).

  3. Actually speaking I prefer shooting the square M.F. but, in this case, I prefer the vertical one. First because it has been thought that way and second because it enhance the perspective and the play of lights/shadows.
    The first one is very good too...

  4. I really like the second shot, nicely abstract.

  5. I too prefer the original, very atmospheric shot to the the square version, in the way that you've cropped it.
    I suggest you have not been ruthless enough. There are two dark bands on either side of the crop, which are given meaning by the perspective of the original, but are visually unexplained in the square. If you crop them out, leaving only the bright inner edges, and then rearrange the square to suit I suggest it will look better as an abstract. At the moment, it seems to fall halfway between abstraction and representation..

  6. These are all really good Bruce - I too prefer the uncropped version, but you know my feelings about cropping anyway . .

    How about some photos of people using the Summi? And how about a try out of near mid and further subject matters? I still think Leica lenses seem to be optimised for closer work . . ie people . . how about just going and randomly asking locals if you could take their portrait?
    The worst you could get is a black eye, a broken camera or put on a police watch list.

  7. You do seem to be doing well.
    Some people might guess that the lesson is not about using a Leica, but about going out with only one lens.

  8. I find that your compositions are tighter and more graphic with the Leica than with the SLR. That's not supposed to be the case, but that is definitely what I see.

  9. Relaxing with your Leica is producing some great images Bruce.

  10. The original photograph appeals to me more than the cropped version. My eye travels down the hallway to the bright patch of light at the base of the the door and then up the door to the graffiti. I also like the spatial distance between me and the door at the end of the close in the original photograph, which provides me with a greater sense of context. Bill